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George Farragut 





The Gulf States Historical Magazine 

September, 1903 

Digitized by the Internet Arciiive 

in 2011 witii funding from 

University of Nortii Carolina at Chapel Hill 


"Well proved, they say, in strife of zuat , 
And tempest on the Sea." 

By Marshali^ DeLancey HA^-wooD.of Raleigh, N. C. 

With those few of the present generation who have heard 
at all of Major George Farragiit, the idea usually prevails that 
his only title to distinction lay in the fact that he became the 
father of one of America's most noted naval commanders. Yet 
the services rendered by George Farragut himself, both as a 
soldier and sailor, were not unappreciated during his own life- 
time. This gentleman, sometime a Captain of North Carolina 
Cavalry in the army of the Revolution, a pioneer in the trans- 
montane settlements of Tennessee and the Gulf States, and 
who was later engaged in the naval service of the United 
States, was a native of the Island of Minorca, one of the 
Balearic group, in the Mediterranean sea. A record concern- 
ing himself, made in a family Bible and addressed to Admiral 
Farragut, is reproduced in one of the latter' s published bio- 
graphies as follows: 
^^My Son: 

"Your father, George Farragut, was born in the Island 
of Minorca, in the Mediterranean, in 1755, the 29th of Septem- 
ber, in Ciudadella, and came away from that island the 2d day 
of April, 1772 — came to America in March, 1776. Your moth- 
er, Elizabeth Shine, was born in North Carolina, Dobbs Co., 
near Kinston on the River, in 1765, on the 7th of June. 
Her father, John Shine — mother, Ellenor Mclven." 

That part of Dobbs County, to which allusion is made in 

this extract now forms the county of L,enoir. Dobbs no longer 
exists, having been abolished bj^ legislative enactment in 1791. 
In the above quoted volume of biography, (written by 
Ivoyall Farragut, son of the Admiral), is also a quotation from 
the records of the ecclesiastical court of Ciudadella, stating 
that the baptism of George Farragut occurred on September 
30, 1755, and giving the date of his birth as above. In this 
entry on the church records, he designated the son of Anthony 
F'arragut and J nana Mesquida, with Don Joseph de Vigo and 

Major George Farragut 91 

the noble lady Dona J nana Martorell as his god-parents. The 
full baptismal name given young Farragut was George Anth- 
ony Magin; but he no doubt considered an appellation in four 
sections too cumbersome to be carried about by a sojourner in 
many lands, so dropped his two middle names and was known 
simply as George Farragut. 

The family of Farragut, (or Ferragut, as it was formerly 
written), is one of ancient orign. claiming descent from Don 
Pedro Ferragut, styled El Co7iqiustador, or "the Conqueror," 
a noted warrior in the service of King James the First of Ara- 
gon when that monarch expelled the Moors from Majorca and 
Valencia in the thirteenth century. From this Don Pedro 
sprang many noted fighters as well as scholars and theolog- 
ians; but as numerous as the family was, it now no longer ex- 
ists in the Balearic Islands. It is interesting to note, in con- 
nection with the Island of Minorca, that when Admiral Farra- 
gut visited his father's birthplace in 1868, the population 
turned out en masse to welcome him, and held in his honor 
public entertainments attended by many thousands. 

George Farragut, the subject of the present sketch, was a 
full-blooded Spaniard. I^ater, however, in a resolution by the 
North Carolina Assembly, (hereinafter to be quoted), he is 
styled "a native and subject of the Kingdom of France." As 
an explanation of this^ it may be mentioned that at about the 
time of PVrragut's birth, Minorca, (then an English possess- 
ion), was captured by the French. This disaster to British arms 
was the one which cost the unfortunate Admiral Byng his life 
after he returned to England. 

The education of George Farragut was received in Spain 
at the schools of Barcelona, and it may be that he gained some 
knowledge of English while there; for, after coming to Amer- 
ica, he showed himself quite proficient in the language of his 
adopted country. During the four years elapsing between his 
departure from Minorca in April, 1772, and his arrival in 
America in March, 1776, he was for a while at school, as above 
noted, later being engaged in seafaring pursuits. At the time 
that he came to America, the war with Great Britain had begun 
in earnest, and one decisive victory had already been gained 
in North Carolina by the colonists at Moore's Creek Bridge. 
Promptly espousing the patriot cause, Farragut now entered 

92 The Gulf States Historical Magazine 

upon the long war in which he was destined to bear an honor- 
able part. 

As seamen of the eighteenth century knew more of broad- 
side firing than cavalry tactics, one might expect to find George 
Farragut on some armed sloop, or fighting as an artilleryman 
in the ranks of the patriots; yet navigating a horse seems also 
to have been one of his accomplishments, for we soon see his 
name enrolled as an officer in the North Carolina State Legion 
or Mounted Rangers. This organization of light-horsemen was 
largely entrusted with guarding the western settlements, and 
much of its warfare was waged against the Indians and their 
Tory instigators in that section of North Carolina which is 
now the State of Tennessee. 

At the battle of Cowpens, January 17, 1781, Farragut is 
said to have saved the life of Colonel William Washington. 
Such is a tradition handed down among descendants of the for- 
mer; and some verification of the belief may be found in pub- 
lished accounts of the battle which state that Colonel Wash- 
ington was rescued from a perilous encounter in which he was 
engaged, by a Sergeant (whose name is not given), and a 
Bugler named Ball.* The Sergeant referred to may have been 
Farragut, as both he and Washington were in the cavalry. 

The exact date when Mr. Farragut entered the army does 
not appear; but by the spring of 1782, he had risen to the rank 
of Captain, as is shown by a resolution which the Assembly of 
North Carolina passed on the 27th of May, in that year: 

"Resolved, That Captain George Farragut, of the State Legion, be 
allowed three hundred dollais in full for six months' pay and subsistence 
money, which shall be received in the sales of confiscated property as 
gold and silver, and any Commissioner may be allowed the same in the 
settlement of accounts." f 

When the Revolution came to an end and the arms of the 
colonists were crowned with success, \^ long drain on North 
Carolina's resources was sorely felt, and it was not until three 
years after the war that even a part of the arrears due Captain 
Farragut for his services could be paid. On the 27th of Nov- 
ember, 17/&, the Senate of North Carolina passed a set of res- 

*Marshairs Life of Washington, ( 1804-1807 edition ) vol. iv, p. 347; 

Col. Henry Lee's Memoirs, ( 1812 edition ) vol. i, p. 258. 

Garden's Anecdotes, ( 1822 edition ) p. 69. 

■\State Records of North Carolina, Vol. xvi, p. 169. 

Major George Farragut 93 

oliitions (concurred in by the House of Commons on the same 
day), as follows : 

"Resolved, That Mr. George Farragut, late a Captain in the Cav- 
alry in the State Regiment of North Carolina, be allowed the sum of 
sixty-eight pounds, eight shillings and four pence, current money, being 
the one-fourth part of the sum which appears by his account rendered to 
be due Mr. Farragut for and on account of his military service perform- 
ed in this State; that the Treasurer pay him the same, and it be allowed 
in settlement of public accounts; 

"Resolved also, That the Comptroller issue to Mr. George Farragut 
a certificate for the other three- fourths of the sum due him; 

"Resolved likewise, That this General Assembly are led to adopt 
this measure from a conviction of the faithful, voluntary and public 
spirited services of the said Mr. Farragut, he being a native and subject 
of the Kingdom of France.* 

Shortly after the war, Captain Farragut went west and 
engaged in surveying, also becoming a farmer in what was 
then known as the District of Washington in North Carolina, 
lyater, his place of residence became a part of the South West 
Territory, and is now embraced within the borders of the State 
of Tennessee. 

When Captain Farragut went to the Washington District, 
men of military training were acquisitions to that thinly settled 
region. Farragut soon became Muster-Master of the District, 
and was commissioned a Major of Cavalry by Governor Wil- 
liam Blount on November 3, 1790. One of the claims before 
Congress in 1797 was from Major Farragut for "services ren- 
dered the United States as Muster-Master of the Militia of the 
District of Washington, employed in actual service for the pro- 
tection of the frontiers of the United States south of the Ohio, 
from the ist of March, 1792, to the 26th of October, 1793." 

In the course of time. Major Farragut became the owner 
of quite a number of tracts of land in his new home. The re- 
cord of his purchases, as ascertained by the well-known law- 
yer and historian. Honorable Joshua W. Caldwell, of Knox- 
ville, Tennessee, is as follows: On February 6, 1794, he pur- 
chased from James White a lot in Knoxville, and two days 
later bought from Thomas King two hundred acres in Knox 
County, on Third Creek; in the same year, on April 8th, the 
the State of North Carolina granted him a tract of three hun- 
dred and eighty acres in Grassy Valley, Knox County; in 
April, 1796, he purchased two tracts in Knox County from 
James White. These last named were on the south side of 

*State Records of North Carolina, vol. xviii, p. 24 and 257. 

94 The Gulf States Historical Magazine 

Second Creek, partly within the present bounds of the City of 
Knoxville, Farragut disposed of these two tracts in 1799 and 
1800. Prior to the time when he sold them, he made his 
home on the first, (a little over three acres), which stood at 
the end of Emerson Street, or Spring Street, as it was formerly 
called. On this lot the house occupied by the Farragut fam- 
ily was standing as late as the beginning of 1903, when it was 
torn down to make way for a railroad. Shortly after this a 
public-spirited Tennesseean, Benjamin Rush Strong, conceiv- 
ed the idea of preser\ang the structure, had the tim- 
bers collected and the house rebuilt in its original form. It 
now stands on the premises of Mr. Strong. In a letter 
written by Hon. John B. Brownlow, and published in the 
Knoxville .&;;//«(?/ of April 8, 1903, the original form of the 
house is thus described: "The first story was stone, with a 
wall thick enough for a four-story log house. The second, of 
thick logs, and then a half story above, with a high roof." 

Having gained a practical knowledge of carpentry while 
on ship-board, Major Farragut put his experience in that line 
of work to good account when in Knoxville, and became a 
contractor and house-builder. Not only in Knoxville, but 
throughout the surrounding country, many of the houses of 
the earlier settlers were built by him. 

On December 9, 1796, Farragut bought from Stokely 
Donelson six hundred and forty acres on the north bank of 
the Holston River. Later, in 1805, he executed a mortgage 
for a part of this land, and set forth in the mortgage deed that 
his dwelling house was on part of the tract. His residence 
was at a place called Stony Point which was afterwards known 
as lyow's Ferry. There, (and not, as is usually supposed, at 
Campbell's Station), Admiral David Glasgow Farragut was 
born. Major George Farragut, so far as the records show, never 
owned land at Campbell's Station. In the records of the coun- 
ty court of Knox County for April session, 1797, it appears that 
license was granted Maj . Farragut to ' 'keep a public ferry at his 
own landing on Holston River at the place called Stony Point." 
Campbell's Station was the nearest settlement to Stony Point, 
and the only place which could be shown on a map. This is 
probably why Admiral Farragut himself later referred to 
Campbell's Station as his birthplace. To speak of Stony Point, 

Major George Farragut 95 

otherwise lyOw's Ferry, which was about four miles distant 
from Campbell's Station, would convey no idea to a person 
not familiar with the neighborhood. The mistake may be 
accounted for by a tradition, which has currency in Knox 
County, that there was once, near Low's Ferry, a camp-ground 
connected in some way with the name of Campbell, and prob- 
ably owned or operated by members of that family. 

The Farragut house at Stony Point is described as having 
been unusuall}- large for a log structure. Originally it was 
forty by twenty feet, with additional rooms built later which 
greatly added to its size. Through its walls were two loop- 
holes for purposes of defense against the Indians. This house 
is no longer in existence. The place of its location was sold by 
Major Farragut to Elisha Jarnagin, from whom it was pur- 
chased b}^ Abraham Low; and thereby it gained the name of 
Low's Ferry. 

Admiral Farragut himself could remember many of the 
dangerous frontier experiences of his father's family in Ten- 
nessee, as the following extract from his journal (in the biog- 
raphy by Loyall Farragut) will show: 

"In those days, on the border, we were continually an- 
noyed by the Indians, which rendered the organization of the 
militia a necessity. My father was appointed a Major of cav- 
alry, and served for some time in that capacity, the condition 
of the country requiring its inhabitants to be constantly on the 
outlook. I remember that on one occasion, during my fath- 
er's absence, a party of Indians came to our house, which was 
somewhat isolated, when my mother, who was a brave and 
energetic w'oman, barred the door in the most effectual man- 
ner, and sent all of us trembling little ones up into the loft of 
the barn, while she guarded the entrance with an axe. The 
savages attempted to parley with her, but she kept them at 
bay, until finally they departed, for some reason which is un- 
known, their intentions having been evidently hostile. My 
father arrived shortly after with his command, and immediate- 
ly pursued the Indians, whom, I believe, he succeeded in 
overtaking and punishing; at anj^ rate, the}^ were never seen 
again in that part of the countr3\" 

When North Carolina ceded Tennessee to the United 
States to be set up as a separate government, the parent State 
reserved the ownership of unentered public lands hang with- 
in the borders of the new commonwealth. It may be that the 
remainder of what was due Major Farragut from North Caro- 

96 The Gulf States Historicai. Magazine 

Una for his military services in the War for Independence, was 
paid with the grant to him of the three hundred and eighty 
acres in Grassy Valley, heretofore mentioned. Numberless 
claims b}^ veterans of the Revolution were settled in this man- 
ner, and many of the owners crossed the Alleghanies to take 
personal possession of their property. Largely from these war- 
like progenitors, with those who accompanied them or went 
about the same time, springs the race of Tennesseeaus,, which 
has made itself felt in every succeeding conflict, — from the war 
of 1 812, with its leading spirit, Andrew Jackson, a native 
North Carolinian, down to the war between the States, with 
General Forrest and Admiral Farragut, both of North Caro- 
lina parentage, fighting on opposite sides with unsurpassed 
effect; while later still, in the war with Spain, were many 
creditable participants who came of the same stock. 

Some time during the early part of 1807, Major Farragut 
removed with his family from Tennessee to the Gulf Coast, 
having received a commission as Sailing-Master in the United 
States navy on the 2d of March in that year. At the time of 
his appointment he was still a resident of Tennessee; for even 
later, in a deed executed by him (April 30, 1807), he refers to 
himself as of "Knox County, in the State of Tennessee." In 
that day of slow mail service, the news of his appointment 
probably had not reached him, or he may have tarried in his 
old home for a short while in order to dispose of his property 
before reporting for duty. After his arrival in the far South, 
Farragut purchased a plantation in what is now Jackson coun- 
ty, Mississippi. It was situated at a slight promontory called 
Point Plaquet, and sometimes known as Farragut' s Point. 
This place is on the west side of Pascagoula River, and near it 
was a small harbor, together with tremendous stretches of 
marsh lands which were interspersed with bayous and ponds. 
The place was in a section of country which, in parlance of 
the old English borders, might be styled, "debatable land," 
for it was claimed bj' the Spaniards as a part of West Florida, 
and by the United States as included within the Louisiana 
Territory, recently purchased from France. After the Ameri- 
can settlers had captured the Spanish fortress at Baton Rouge, 
the Government at Washington seized the whole stretch of 
country in dispute. 

Major George Farragut 97 

Though still retaining possession of his plantation, Farra- 
gut removed his family to New Orleans in 1808. He seems to 
have alternated in his place of residence between his planta- 
tion and the naval station at New Orleans; for, in 181 1, 
while still serving as sailing-master, he was called upon to act 
as magistrate for the county of Pascagoula. The government 
agent who made the appointment wrote to the authorities at 
Washington that he had prevailed upon Sailing-Master Farra- 
gut to accept the post of magistrate upon a special request 
from the people of Pascagoula, by whom he was greatly belov- 
ed. As the Gulf Coast was settled so largely by Spaniards 
and French, it was to Farragut, no doubt, a most congenial 
locality, recalling the surroundings of his youth in far away 

At the naval station in New Orleans, Sailing-Master Far- 
ragut was for sometime in command of a gun-boat. His wife 
died in New Orleans on the 22d of June, 1808, being the vic- 
tim of a yellow fever epidemic. Before Mrs. Farragut' s death 
an incident occurred which had the greatest influence in shap- 
ing the career of her distinguished son, David Glasgow Farra- 
gut, then a child. It seems that Sailing-Master David Porter, 
father of Commodore David Porter and grandfather of Ad- 
miral David Dixon Porter, was then stationed at New Orleans; 
and, becoming ill, received much kindness from the family of 
his friend and associate, Sailing-Master Farragut, at whose 
house he died. Shortly after that. Commander Porter, after- 
wards Commodore, was ordered to New Orleans; and, learning 
of what had been done for his late father in the household of 
Mr. Farragut, offered to adopt one of that gentleman's two 
smallest sons — William, the eldest of three, already being a 
midshipman in the navy. The 3'ounger of the two boys, on 
hearing of Porter's offer, promptly asked that he might be the 
one to accompany that officer. Thus began the wonderful na- 
val career of David Glasgow Farragut, who received his "bap- 
tism of fire" under Captain Porter in the war of 181 2, when a 
midshipman only thirteen years old on board the Essex, and 
who died with a higher rank than had ever before existed in 
the navy of the United States. 

Of George Farragut, little more remains to be said. He 
retired from the navy, March 25, 1S14, on account of age, 

98 The GUI.F States Historicai, Magazine 

then being in his fifty-ninth year, and prematurely old, no 
doubt, in consequence of his continued life of almost constant 
exposure. He is recorded simply as "Dismissed" in at least 
one Naval Register (Hamersly's); and this should not be al- 
lowed to pass without a word of explanation, as dismissal in 
our day implies that an officer has been guilty of some miscon- 
duct which renders him unworthy of remaining in the ser\dce. 
Desiring information on a statement apparently so out of keep- 
ing with the previous honorable record of Mr. Farragut, the 
writer of this sketch addressed an inquiry to the Navy Depart- 
ment at Washington, asking for the facts of the case. To 
this came the reply that^ailing- Master Farragut left the ser- 
vice for the reason that owing to his old age he could not per- 
form his duties as the requirements of active service demand- 
ed, and in those days there was no retired list; there was noth- 
ing in connection with his dismissal other than this. ' ' 

After the retirement of Sailing-Master Farragut from the 
nav)^ he once more repaired to his plantation in Mississippi, 
and there spent the remainder of his life. The part, if any, 
which he bore in the operations to defend New Orleans against 
the British, in the war of 1812, does not appear. He was no 
longer regularly enlisted in the service when Jackson won his 
great victory on the 8tli of January, 181 5. 

It was on his plantation at Point Plaquet, June 4, 1817, 
that George Farragut died, three years after his retirement 
from the nav)', in the sixty-second j^ear of his age, and after a 
residence of more than forty years in the republic for whose 
independence he had bravely contended when a young captain 
of North Carolina Light Horse in the army of the Revolution.